Ai Weiwei's reproduction of Monet's Water Lilies with LEGO bricks is getting a lot of buzz these days, but the use of LEGOS in the art world is certainly nothing new.
In fact, the iconic LEGO brick, from a simple children's game, is increasingly evolving into an artistic
medium, used not only by amateur builders, but also by real artists. The LEGO blocks are, in fact, not unlike a paintbrush, a chisel or a camera, and are simply a creative tool.
We are accustomed to think of artistic creation as something almost holy, unrelated to anything that
belongs to consumption and commerce. Although the association between the so-called “high art” and the LEGO, is certainly not immediate, the use of LEGOS for artistic purposes is, on the other hand, not at all inconceivable.
Think of mosaics, one of the most traditional kinds of artistic creation. Mosaics are images made from small, colored pieces, such as tiles or glass, arranged in a pattern. LEGO compositions work in the same way, except that the pieces are LEGO bricks. By arranging them in different patterns and colors, artists can create stunning and intricate images.
And what about Impressionist and Pointillist paintings? With their small brushstrokes of different shades, they highlight that every representation is made of small parts, then reassembled by the eye. LEGO bricks could work both as mosaic tiles and as paint brushstrokes. By arranging the bricks in different colors and patterns, artists can create images that resemble classic paintings or abstract compositions.
Also, LEGO is a perfect medium for creating three-dimensional objects, as the bricks can be stacked, rotated, and combined in infinite ways, from small sculptures to large-scale installations.
In addition, LEGO could properly fit the artistic revolution between the 70s and 80s, which argued for the artistic quality of everyday objects. The reflection on seriality became one of the favorite trends of contemporary art, just think of Warhol’s Brillo boxes or Campbell's soup cans. What could be more serial than an industrial toy, mass-produced and identical to itself? LEGO is perfectly in line with the new characteristics investigated by artists. It is a serial product, an object of everyday life, and it has allowed art to leave museums and enter everyone's homes where everyone can create his or her own "artwork".
Thus, more than a popular toy, LEGO is a versatile and playful medium in its own right that allows artists to express themselves in unique and innovative ways. Furthermore, the precision and flexibility of LEGO bricks make them a popular choice for recreating iconic pieces.
Here are five artists that have reproduced iconic masterpieces of the history of art through Lego bricks.
The Turin-based artist Marco Pece, better known by his pseudonym "Udronotto" recreates and bring to life iconic works of art by inserting the little yellow LEGO men into his compositions. As he himself declares, the passion for art in all its expression has driven him to revisit works by great masters of the past with irony, but still with great respect.
2. Nathan Sawaya
Nathan Sawaya was the first contemporary artist to bring LEGO into the art world as a medium. His
obsessively crafted work captivates viewers with its beauty and playfulness. His devotion to scale and color perfection enables him to elevate a basic toy to fine art status. From Pop Art and Surrealism, to reproducing famous works of art such as Munch's The Scream or La Gioconda, Sawaya produces works with original subject matter inspired by his emotions.
His unique sculptures and renowned touring exhibition, THE ART OF THE BRICK, continues to inspire
creativity as well as break attendance records globally.
Nathan Sawaya, The Scream (after Munch) Nathan Sawaya, Pietà
3. Prince Lego (Lee Ki-Young)
Lee Ki-Young is a Korean graphic and designer who likes to call himself "Prince LEGO" on social media, because he has recreated real sets with LEGO bricks to reproduce the great masterpieces of art history.
Very active on social media, where he usually posts his creations, Lee Ki-Young reinterprets not only famous works, but also movie scenes, or their posters, famous characters, without neglecting landscapes and ironic works.
Prince Lego, Le déjeuner des canotiers(after Renoir) Prince Lego, The Birth of Venus (after Botticelli)
4. Ai Weiwei
Ai has recreated Claude Monet’s Iconic ‘Water Lilies’ using 650,000 Multi-Colored LEGO bricks, with the
declared aim of challenging our ideas of reality and beauty. The new image of the Lilies was constructed with LEGO bricks to eliminate Monet’s brushstrokes in favor of a depersonalized language of industrial parts and colors.
The artist has added his own touch to the century-old composition, inserting a “dark portal” to the right-hand side that leads to the underground room that Ai shared with his father while their family was exiled to Xinjiang during the 1960s.
Thus, if on the one hand he has depersonalized the masterpiece using an industrial language of modular LEGO bricks, on the other hand he has personalized it by inserting the door of his childhood home.
Ai Weiwei, Water Lilies #1. PHOTO © ELA BIALKOWSKA/OKNO STUDIO
5. Dante Dentoni
In Dante Dentoni’s works, each scene represents an invitation to discover a childhood memory, an unforgettable narrative, a valuable remembrance or simply a meaningful moment, to make you feel the pleasure of being surprised. Toys, LEGO bricks, wood and drywall allow Dante to create scenes full of details, which do their best to inspire your own imagination.
“My work makes adults become children and children stay close to art. Scenes are a place where the real world expands until it becomes unreal. A creative bridge to our emotions to observe us extensively.”